Kevin Brockmeier at Changing Hands Bookstore on April 28

By Steve Jansen

I’m pretty sure that Kevin Brockmeier won’t be reading this blog entry about Kevin Brockmeier.

Last year when Brockmeier visited Tempe’s Changing Hands Bookstore to plug his amazing novel The Brief History of the Dead (the book fuses suspended belief with a light dusting of science fiction), the Little Rock, Arkansas-based author told me that he never reads press about himself. However, this doesn’t deter me from writing about his Monday night appearance at Changing Hands, where Brockmeier read from and signed copies of his latest short story collection, The View from the Seventh Layer. Because Dead (published in 2006) is one of my favorite reads of the past few years, this was a not-to-be-missed event for me.

Brockmeier chose to read the story entitled “A Fable with Slips of White Paper Spilling from the Pockets.” He told the crowd of six attendees (six!) that the four fables contained in the collection – which includes other cumbersome titles such as “A Fable with a Photograph of a Glass Mobile on the Wall” and “A Fable Containing a Reflection the Size of a Match Head in Its Pupil” – were inspired by the works of contemporary Italian scribe Italo Calvino.

I love the way Brockmeier paces his readings. His nearly-mute, high-pitched voice, which sounds like a female’s at times, was aided by a microphone. There weren’t any stutters or awkward pauses as he told the tale of a man who absentmindedly purchases God’s overcoat only to find prayers written on slips of paper in the coat pockets.

Following the reading, Brockmeier opened the floor to questions. I found out that he rarely outlines his stories (chooses instead to diligently work sentence-by-sentence) and that he’s currently at work on a new adult novel (he’s also authored four children’s books, two which have been published). He also stated that the rights to The Brief History of the Dead have been purchased and that “The Year of Silence” - a story contained in The View from the Seventh Layer - will be included in the Best American Short Stories 2008 anthology that’s being put together by Salman Rushdie.

My top five favorite novels of the past few years (in order of preference): 1. The People of Paper by Salvador Plascencia 2. Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi Wa'Thiong'O 3. The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier 4. African Psycho by Alain Mabanckou 5. Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl